[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 221 (Thursday, November 15, 2012)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 68071-68072]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-27786]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 622

[Docket Nos. 120709225-2365-01 and 0907271173-0629-03]
RIN 0648-XC332


Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic; Reopening of the 
2012 Commercial Sector for South Atlantic Red Snapper, Gag, and South 
Atlantic Shallow-Water Grouper

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION: Temporary rule; reopening.

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SUMMARY: NMFS reopens the 2012 commercial sector for red snapper, gag, 
and all other South Atlantic Shallow-Water Grouper (SASWG) in the South 
Atlantic exclusive economic zone (EEZ). NMFS previously determined the 
commercial annual catch limit (ACL) for red snapper would be reached by 
September 24, 2012, and closed the commercial sector for red snapper in 
the South Atlantic at 12:01 a.m., local time, on September 24, 2012. 
Additionally, NMFS previously determined the commercial ACL for gag 
would be reached by October 20, 2012, and closed the commercial sector 
for gag and all other SASWG in the South Atlantic at 12:01 a.m., local 
time, on October 20, 2012. However, updated landings estimates indicate 
neither the commercial red snapper nor the commercial gag ACL has been 
reached at this time. Therefore, NMFS is reopening the commercial 
sector for red snapper, gag, and all other SASWG in the South Atlantic. 
The commercial sector for all of these species will reopen at 12:01 
a.m., on November 13, 2012, and close at 12:01 a.m. on November 21, 
2012. The intended effect of this temporary rule is to maximize harvest 
benefits for commercial red snapper, gag, and all other SASWG 
fishermen. Additionally, this reopening for red snapper provides an 
opportunity to collect fishery-dependent data that could be useful for 
the 2014 red snapper stock assessment.

DATES: This temporary rule is effective 12:01 a.m., local time, 
November 13, 2012, until 12:01 a.m., local time, November 21, 2012.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Catherine Hayslip, telephone: 727-824-
5305, or email: catherine.hayslip@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS and the South Atlantic Fishery 
Management Council (Council) manage South Atlantic snapper-grouper 
including red snapper, gag, and all other SASWG under the Fishery 
Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic 
Region (FMP). In the South Atlantic, SASWG means gag, black grouper, 
red grouper, scamp, red hind, rock hind, yellowmouth grouper, yellowfin 
grouper, graysby, and coney. The Council prepared the FMP and NMFS 
implements the FMP through regulations at 50 CFR part 622 under the 
authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management 
Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act).

Background

Red Snapper

    Red snapper are overfished and undergoing overfishing. The harvest 
and possession of red snapper has been prohibited since January 4, 
2010, initially through temporary rules (74 FR 63673, December 4, 2009, 
and 75 FR 27658, May 18, 2010), and then through the final rule to 
implement Amendment 17A to the FMP (75 FR 76874, December 9, 2010). 
Amendment 17A continued the prohibition on a permanent basis by 
implementing an ACL for red snapper of zero (landings only). Amendment 
17A also implemented a rebuilding plan for red snapper, which specifies 
that red snapper biomass must increase to the target rebuilt level in 
35 years, starting from 2010. At its June 2012 meeting, the Council 
received new information regarding discard estimates for red snapper. 
Using these data, the Council and NMFS determined that a limited season 
for red snapper would be possible in 2012. Therefore, the Council voted 
for, and NMFS implemented, emergency rulemaking to allow for the 
limited harvest and possession of red snapper in or from the South 
Atlantic EEZ in 2012 (77 FR 51939, August 28, 2012).
    Through the emergency rule, NMFS implemented an ACL of 20,818 lb 
(9,443 kg), gutted weight, for the commercial sector. A commercial trip 
limit of 50-lb (22.7-kg), gutted weight, no size limit, and a 7-day 
commercial fishing season were implemented to constrain harvest to the 
ACL. The commercial fishing season opened at 12:01 a.m., local time, 
September 17, 2012, and closed at 12:01 a.m., local time, September 24, 
2012. The Southeast Fisheries Science Center (SEFSC) monitored 
commercial landings during the 7-day season to determine whether the 
commercial ACL had been harvested. The AMs specified in 50 CFR 
622.49(b)(25)(i) state that if the SEFSC determines the ACL has not 
been harvested during the 7-day season, the Regional Administrator may 
reopen the commercial sector for an additional limited time. The SEFSC 
has determined that the ACL was not harvested during the first 7-day 
season, therefore, NMFS is reopening the commercial sector for red 
snapper beginning at 12:01 a.m., on November 13, 2012, and closing at 
12:01 a.m., on November 21, 2012. During the reopening, harvest will 
again be limited to the 50-lb (22.7-kg), gutted weight, daily trip 
limit and there will be no size limit.
    After the commercial sector closes, an operator of a vessel with a 
valid commercial vessel permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper 
having red snapper onboard must have landed and bartered, traded or 
sold such red snapper prior to 12:01 a.m., local time, November 21, 
2012. During the closure, all sale or purchase of red snapper is 
prohibited and, because the recreational sector is also closed, the bag 
and possession limit of red snapper is zero. This bag and possession 
limit applies in the South Atlantic on board a vessel for which a valid 
Federal charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic snapper-
grouper has been issued, without regard to where such species were 
harvested, i.e., in state or Federal waters. The prohibition on sale or 
purchase does not apply to the sale or purchase of red snapper that 
were harvested, landed ashore, and sold prior to 12:01 a.m., local 
time, November 21, 2012, and were held in cold storage by a dealer or 
processor.

Gag and SASWG

    The commercial ACL (commercial quota) for gag in the South Atlantic 
is 352,940 lb (160,091 kg), gutted weight, for the current fishing 
year, as specified in 50 CFR 622.42(e)(7).
    In accordance with regulations at 50 CFR 622.49(b)(3)(i), NMFS is 
required to close the commercial sector for gag and all other SASWG 
when the commercial ACL (commercial quota) for gag has

[[Page 68072]]

been reached, or is projected to be reached, by filing a notification 
to that effect with the Office of the Federal Register. NMFS determined 
that the commercial ACL (commercial quota) for South Atlantic gag was 
reached and published a temporary rule on October 15, 2012 (77 FR 
62463) to close gag and all other SASWG on October 20, 2012. 
Accordingly, the commercial sector for South Atlantic gag and all other 
SASWG closed effective 12:01 a.m., local time, October 20, 2012, until 
the new fishing year begins at 12:01 a.m., local time, January 1, 2013. 
However, since that closure, the SEFSC has received additional landings 
data and has determined that the ACL was not harvested prior to October 
20, 2012. Therefore, in accordance with 50 CFR 622.43(c), NMFS is 
reopening the commercial sector for gag and all other SASWG beginning 
at 12:01 a.m., on November 13, 2012, and closing at 12:01 a.m., on 
November 21, 2012. The recreational sectors for gag and for all other 
SASWG are not closed and continue to remain open until December 31, 
2012.
    Additionally, a seasonal closure is in place for the recreational 
and commercial sectors for gag and all other SASWG from January through 
April each fishing year as specified in 50 CFR 622.35(j). Therefore, 
after the commercial sector for gag and all other SASWG close at 12:01 
a.m., on November 21, 2012, the commercial harvest of gag and all other 
SASWG will not commence until May 1, 2013.
    The operator of a vessel with a valid commercial vessel permit for 
South Atlantic snapper-grouper having gag or other SASWG onboard must 
have landed and bartered, traded, or sold such gag or other SASWG prior 
to 12:01 a.m., local time, November 21, 2012. During this commercial 
closure, the bag limit and possession limits specified in 50 CFR 
622.39(d)(1) and (d)(2), respectively, apply to all harvest or 
possession of gag or other SASWG in or from the South Atlantic EEZ, and 
the sale or purchase of gag or other SASWG taken from the EEZ is 
prohibited. The prohibition on sale or purchase does not apply to the 
sale or purchase of gag or other SASWG that were harvested, landed 
ashore, and sold prior to 12:01 a.m., local time, November 21, 2012, 
and were held in cold storage by a dealer or processor. For a person on 
board a vessel for which a Federal commercial permit for the South 
Atlantic snapper-grouper fishery has been issued, the sale and purchase 
provisions of the commercial closure for gag or other SASWG would apply 
regardless of whether the fish are harvested in state or Federal 
waters, as specified in 50 CFR 622.43(a)(5)(iii).
    During the seasonal closure for the recreational and commercial 
sectors for gag and all other SASWG from January through April each 
fishing year, no person may fish for, harvest, or possess in or from 
the South Atlantic EEZ any SASWG. In addition, for a person on board a 
vessel for which a valid Federal commercial or charter vessel/headboat 
permit for South Atlantic snapper-grouper has been issued, the 
provisions of this closure apply in the South Atlantic, regardless of 
where such fish are harvested, i.e., in state or Federal waters as 
specified in 50 CFR 622.35(j).

Classification

    The Regional Administrator, Southeast Region, NMFS, has determined 
this temporary rule is necessary for the conservation and management of 
South Atlantic red snapper, gag, and all other SASWG and is consistent 
with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable laws.
    This action is taken under 50 CFR 622.49(b)(25)(i) and is exempt 
from review under Executive Order 12866.
    These measures are exempt from the procedures of the Regulatory 
Flexibility Act because the temporary rule is issued without 
opportunity for prior notice and comment.
    This action responds to the best available information recently 
obtained from the snapper-grouper fishery. Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 
553(b)(B), there is good cause to waive the requirements to provide 
prior notice and the opportunity for public comment on this temporary 
rule. Such procedures are unnecessary and contrary to the public 
interest regarding red snapper because the commercial ACL and AMs for 
red snapper were established in emergency rulemaking to allow for the 
limited harvest and possession of red snapper in 2012 (77 FR 51939, 
August 28, 2012), and the AMs allow the Regional Administrator to 
reopen the commercial sector if the ACL has been determined to have not 
been reached during the first 7-day commercial season. Such procedures 
are unnecessary and contrary to the public interest regarding gag 
because NMFS previously determined the commercial ACL for gag would be 
reached by October 20, 2012, and closed the commercial sector for gag 
and all other SASWG in the South Atlantic at 12:01 a.m., local time, on 
October 20, 2012. However, updated landings estimates indicate the ACL 
for the commercial sector for gag has not been reached at this time, 
and therefore additional harvest is available in order to achieve 
optimum yield. All that remains is to notify the public that additional 
harvest is available under the established ACLs and, therefore, the 
commercial sector for red snapper, gag, and all other SASWG will 
reopen.
    Additionally, reopening the commercial sector for red snapper, gag, 
and all other SASWG will likely result in revenue increases to 
commercial vessels. Fishermen will be able to keep the red snapper, 
gag, and all other SASWG that they are currently required to discard. 
Additionally, reopening the commercial sector for red snapper will 
provide an opportunity to collect fishery-dependent data that will 
likely be useful for the 2014 red snapper stock assessment. Delaying 
the implementation of this rulemaking to provide prior notice and the 
opportunity for public comment would reduce the likelihood of reopening 
the commercial sector for red snapper, gag, and all other SASWG in the 
2012 fishing year.
    For the aforementioned reasons, the AA also finds good cause to 
waive the 30-day delay in the effectiveness of this action under 5 
U.S.C. 553(d)(3).

    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.

    Dated: November 9, 2012.
Emily H. Menashes,
Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-27786 Filed 11-9-12; 4:15 pm]
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